APPLE PIE 101

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

Apple pies seem so simple and classic, but like all simple and classic things, there’s a tumult of decisions brewing just beneath the surface. Granny Smith or Pink Lady? Butter, lard, or both? Double crust, lattice, or crumble? Just pass me a slice and scoop me some ice cream dammit! …it seems to make you wan’t to scream.

But, here’s the thing: delicious food is the accumulation of decisions.  Do I actually caramelize the onions or do I say screw it and try to rush the process? Do I let the dough rest for thirty minutes or do I get shifty eyed and use it after five? No, none of these things will ruin a dish, but they’ll take away from the possibility of it being better than good. And don’t we all deserve a slice of great pie?

Here are some of my thoughts on what makes a truly awesome apple pie. I hope these tips help you make yours.

HOW TO MAKE APPLE PIE:

Apple Pie 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

TYPES OF APPLES

Heirloom varieties of apples offer the best combination of flavor and texture, so hit up your local farmer’s market and ask an apple farmer. They know their apples, they know their pie, they will know which of their varietals are best for your needs. But, if you can’t find a Northern Spy, early season Gravenstein, or Belle de Boskoop (how awesome are these names, by the way?), no worries. Here are my favorite varieties you can find in your supermarket:

Pink Lady: These are my favorite. They’re the perfect blend of sweet, tangy, and fibrous. They don’t make you pie too juicy, but they keep their shape and texture enough that there’s a little bite in the middle of each slice.

Granny Smith: This is the not super exciting safe bet. Granny Smith’s are a baking apple, so that super tart flavor and very fibrous texture are actually benefits once you get them in the oven. They don’t have a pronounced flavor, like some of these other apples, so  I like using them in the more traditional, spicy pies.

Jonathan: A Mid Western favorite, Jonathan’s have a lovely tart snap and firm flesh. For a fun balance, try Jonagolds, a cross of Jonathan and Golden Delicious, which have a lovely pear like flavor and more yielding texture.

Braeburn: These ruddy apples hold their shape through baking and have a lovely spiciness to their flavor. Definitely use with cinnamon, yum!

Conclusion? Apples going into apple pie are sort of like grapes going into wine. They may not be your favorites just plucked from the tree, but they transform in the process. This means a little interpretation is necessary when assessing whether it’s the right fruit for your purpose. My strategy is to always taste, and look for an apple that has lots of flavor, a tart, cheek sucking snap, and a crisp firm texture. I also look to see if a slice of the apple oxidizes (turns brown) quickly. You want an apple that is slow to oxidize, so you don’t end up with a brown, mushy pie.

Don’t use: Sweet, mild flavored apples that are tender/mealy when fresh. The result will be a one dimensional, lackluster, mushy pie. I’m looking at you Red Delicious!

 

BUTTER, LARD, OR SHORTENING?

I’m a butter girl, because I’m a bit lazy and I love the flavor of butter, but each of these options (or a combination) bring a different something to the crust.

The rules: For any fat going into a pie crust, it needs to be COLD. Like, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, and chill your ingredients as you go COLD. For a flakier crust, the pieces of fat should be larger than you think (about penny sized), for a tight, firm crust, a little smaller (closer to pea sized). The reason is that as the crust cooks, water escapes as steam, and the escaping steam creates air pockets. You also want the fat left behind to hold it’s protein and shape, creating lift and dimension, instead of smearing and spreading, creating a heavy fat bomb. It sounds technical, but if you keep you fat cold, employ a light touch, and let your dough rest, you’ll be well on your way to an amazing slice of pie.

Butter: Hello flavor! Because butter is a combination of milk fats, protein, and water, you get a combination of flakiness and flavor, but not necessarily tenderness. Because of the milk solids in the butter, it also browns the crust nicely, so you get great color.

Lard/Shortening: Lard has flavor (a bit savory), shortening doesn’t have much, but because these are pure fats, there’s no evaporation process, so the crust won’t be flakey. However, because both of these fats have a very high melting point (higher than butter), it means they don’t spread as much as butter, and give the crust a tender, delicate texture.

The dark horse – Cream Cheese: Cream Cheese has a reputation for making pie crusts much easier to handle, due to it’s more pliable texture. It’s very rarely used solo (typically a blend of butter and cream cheese is preferred), and has about half the amount of fat as butter, which means more evaporation.

A blend: This is every Grandma’s “swear by” tip. Use butter for flavor and flakiness, lard or shortening for tenderness.

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

PIE CRUST

INGREDIENTS

This is a double crust recipe, you can refrigerate for 3 days or freeze the other one for future use

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces (or lard, shortening, and/or cream cheese)

1/4-1/2 cup ice water

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor or quickly using your fingertips, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until the chunks of butter are broken down to the size of peas and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the first 1/4 cup of water and mix until the dough comes together easily. It’s too dry if it immediately clumps apart. Add two tablespoons of water at a time, you can always add more water but not more flour, so careful not to add too much!

Gather the dough into two balls and plop them on top of two sheets of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap up each ball and press down, smooshing the ball into a disc about an inch thick.

Pop them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes while you busy yourself with the other stuff.

 

SHAKER APPLE PIE

The rosewater gives such a unique flavor to the apples, bringing out their fruitiness and ripened sweetness.  For such a simple pie, you’ll want to use the most flavorful apples you can find, so that nothing masks that pure apple flavor.

INGREDIENTS

8 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced 3/8 inch thick

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 tablespoon cream

3/4 teaspoon rosewater

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 double pie crust recipe

INGREDIENTS (EGG WASH)

1 tablespoon cream

1 egg

sugar (for sprinkling)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the apples, flour, sugars, cream, and rosewater in a bowl, until everything is lightly coated. To roll out the dough, let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough as well as the surface you’re rolling on. Roll out to a 12 inch circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, like a spool, and place onto a 9-inch pie plate, lining up with the center of the pan. Gently unroll and press down to line the pie dish with the dough. Fill with the apple slices, mounding a bit in the middle, and cover with the other layer of dough.  Cut off the excess dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the dish. Pinch the edges to flute together (or press with a fork if that’s easier), cut three small vents into the pie and brush with rosewater and cream mixed together.

Mix together the cream and egg, and brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with sugar and bake on the center rack for 50-60 minutes. If the edges brown too quickly while baking, cover them with aluminum foil.

Let the apple pie cool until it’s just warm, and the liquid has had time to settle.

 

CLASSIC AMERICAN PIE

Apples spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and a kick of apple cider vinegar taste exactly like how you expect fall to. It’s classic, which can sometimes be a polite way of saying boring, but who’s to complain when there’s a scoop of melting ice cream on top?

INGREDIENTS

8 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced 3/8 inch thick

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 tablespoon cream

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 double pie crust recipe

INGREDIENTS (EGG WASH)

1 tablespoon cream

1 egg

sugar (for sprinkling)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the apples, flour, sugars, cream, vinegar, salt and spices in a bowl, until everything is lightly coated. To roll out the dough, let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough as well as the surface you’re rolling on. Roll out to a 12 inch circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, like a spool, and place onto a 9-inch pie plate, lining up with the center of the pan. Gently unroll and press down to line the pie dish with the dough. Fill with the apple slices, mounding a bit in the middle, and cover with the other layer of dough.  Cut off the excess dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the dish. Pinch the edges to flute together (or press with a fork if that’s easier), cut three small vents into the pie and brush with cream.

Mix together the ingredients for the egg wash and brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with sugar and bake on the center rack for 50-60 minutes. If the edges brown too quickly while baking, cover them with aluminum foil.

Let the apple pie cool until it’s just warm, and the liquid has had time to settle.

PIE CRUST GAME:

If you want to up your game and make your pies extra pretty, you can add a braided edge, or you can do a lattice top. Both are pretty easy to do, so don’t feel like you need to be a pro to nail either of these.

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

BRAIDED APPLE PIE

If you’re making a smaller pie (8 inches), a regular recipe of crust will be fine, but if you’re making a larger one (10 inches), you’ll need to make another half recipe of dough, just in case.

Prepare your double crust pie how you normally would, simple pinching or pressing the edges together, and trimming the edge of any excess dough. Take remaining dough and make three 3-inch balls. Roll each ball on the floured counter into a long thin strand. You’ll want the strand to be 30 inches or a little longer, but no worries if you need to do this in smaller segments.  Pinch the three strands together, and then start braiding, keeping the braid tight. If any dough breaks, just pinch it back together. Wash the edge of the pie with cream or egg wash and put the braid on top of the edge, pressing down lightly to secure. For the ends where the braid meets, you can overlap the braid by tucking each edge under each other, or you can form the end of one braid into the other end, making it appear as though it’s one continuous braid.  Bake normally.

APPLE PIE 101 // The Kitchy Kitchen

LATTICE APPLE PIE

Prepare your dough as if you’re making a regular double crust pie. Roll out and fill the bottom layer of dough, then roll out the second layer. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into even strips, 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch wide, depending on how thick you want your lattice strips.

Lay out 4 to 8 parallel strips of the pie dough, depending on how thick your strips are, on top of the filling, with a little space between them. Fold back every other strip. Place a long strip across the center of the pie, perpendicular to the strips.  Unfold the strips across the perpendicular strip. This is your first weave! It should look a bit like a basket. Now fold back the other strips (the ones that weren’t folded back to begin with) and add another perpendicular strip across the pie. Unfold the strips across the second perpendicular strip. You’ll continue this process until you’ve completed the top of the pie.

Trim the edges of the pie to hang about an inch over the pie plate. Roll the excess dough along the edge, and then, using your fingers, pinch the edge to form a seal. Bake normally.